Playing games online means one has a fairly high chance of encountering a Toxic Gamer. It’s a harsh reality of our online age that anonymity = idiocracy and self loathing = lashing out; resulting in individuals turning the the games we’re meant to play for fun into something darker. As gaming and esports continues to grow in popularity and prominence, Developers are having to do more and more to patrol their users and maintain a positive gaming environment. This process is constantly changing and being redefined, and is one of the hot topic issues in gaming right now.
Many people say “Boo hoo, toughen up,” when it comes to bad behavior from other players, and in some instances I definitely agree. Being competitive is a part of gaming and esports. I've definitely been known to call people “Baddies” and spam war zone chat with “Game Is Hard” when my team can’t figure out how to defend a node or focus target. But there is also a BIG difference between those one off rages and Toxic Players.
There is a lot of anger on the internet. People sit behind their firewalls and monitors and spout filth that they wouldn't ever say in “real life”. We have our usernames and our online personas and we’re a new person, unconstrained by acceptable social conduct...if one so chooses. Many people do, and they’re really just bullies. They suck, and it’s too bad their parents didn't teach them how not to be shit human beings.
It’s only now that Developers really seem to be catching on to the idea that these Trolls are affecting their game in permanently negative ways. In a recent article from Kotaku, Kaéo Milker, a senior producer on HotS, talked about how Blizzard is hoping to prevent their new moba from having a similar environment to League of Legends. Many of their ideas focus on isolating toxic individuals and limiting their communication with others. This goes so far as even having a “Trolls Only” Matchmaking system. Does a vacation in hell sound more appealing than the Troll Bracket? Ya, me too.
The other, uglier, side of toxicity in online gaming is harassment. The forum posts that get deleted, the whispers that are reported, and the invasion of privacy that happens. I've heard stories about players' personal information given out; real names, birthdays, address, phone number, ect. My own experience with harassment in this game from a certain individual I've talked about often. He was a large part of why I took a break, then server transferred. In fact I did server transfer after I posted on my server forum’s Guild Recruitment thread and he (rudely) responded. I reported it, but I wonder if, since he’s already been temp banned once for harassment, he got any further punishment. I doubt it.
This battle against the bad apples is complicated by the monetary realities of gaming. Developers truly hate permanent or long bans, it’s taking money from themselves. In SWTOR this is evident by their banning history, or lack there of, and their haphazard and “punishments” in the past. The ripples of Trolls can often be far reaching and subtle; are warnings, short suspensions, and other slap on the wrist punishments hurting or helping? From what was filling my Twitter Feed from GDC2015, the tide may be shifting.
In SWTOR, the Devs are also dealing with problem gamers and how it has affected Ranked PvP. Win trading and trolling has long been a mar to any legitimacy in Ranked PvP, and now that we’re on Season 4 they’re finally getting around to enforcing and monitoring the competition. Eric recently made the following post as a follow up to earlier remarks on the problems in Ranked.
As promised, we want to keep you informed on what we are doing about those win-traders and trolls in Ranked PvP. Here is what is happening right now:
We will work to refine our data and our validation around players partaking in these actions throughout the Season. Those who feel the need to try to trade their way to the top, or try to ruin that experience for others will be actioned appropriately.
Thank you all for your continued reports around these issues. Get in there and fight each other as Baron Deathmark intended. See you in the Arena.
It will be interesting to see whether this will deter behavior or if it will even be enforceable. It also seems like the whole system many not be effective. I imagine the whole process probably takes some time, but it only takes a few days for one person’s behavior to ruin other players’ rating or experience. As far as win-trading is concerned, you can win trade grind in 2 days. As long as you reach the tier you want before you get a warning, no consequences.
Ideally, people could be adults and competitiveness and light heckling would be it. Reality dictates otherwise though and none of us are immune to scummy people downing our buzz. If you have avoided it, I’d love some tips. I seem to be a crazy magnet. Have any of you had similar interactions with Ranked Trolls or assholes in game? Did you feel like they should have been more harshly punished? Do you think Trolls hurt games more than people think? Let me know!